Another story embellishes the column short stories about my scarves, written by writers who love what I do.

Luciana Ortu was born and lives in Sardinia. The love for reading is the constant of her life. Passionate about archaeology, she loves to walk, feel the scent of time, discover the magic of the archaeological sites of her land.
You can find her book “Il gusto della vitahere.

(If you want to read the story in Italian
, click HERE).


I got my degree this year.

In pharmacy, like my grandmother and my mother. I’ve breathed in the air of those rooms since I was a baby. 

That mixture of disinfectants, boxes and bottles for hygiene and health on the shelves and in the drawers that slide into the depths of the woodwork was familiar to me. 

And how many were the times I waited for my mother, sitting at the table drawing or doing my homework while she worked. 

Granny Gemma has been retired for many years, but even now she goes to the pharmacy at least once a week to see how my parents are getting along. She walks in slowly, leaning on her cane so she won’t slip on the marble floor. 

With royal dignity she accepts the greetings of the old customers who know her. She gestures as if to minimize my father’s hello. She goes through the door that separates the counter from the laboratory where I’m taking the inventory and sits down beside me. With her eyes she caresses the old ceramic pots with Latin names. She smiles and lays a wrinkled hand on my arm. 

I stop working and ask how she’s feeling. I adjust the impeccable knot of the scarf around her neck, the note of colour on her strict black Chanel.
Today, she’s wearing the present I gave her for her ninetieth birthday, with a pastel pop art Queen Elizabeth. Whether she was wearing a lab coat at work, or when she was at home, she always wore one of her collection of scarfs, stoles or kerchiefs

She coughs and answers, “I’m fine, Paola, I’m all right”.

“You know, now that I see you in a lab coat, it takes me back to when I’d just graduated and was working as a tyro in the oldest pharmacy in the town where I was born. The owners were two brothers, old bachelors.

In those days, there were still brothels, and regularly a slimy individual came, sent by the madam of the most renowned establishment. He picked up the galenicals to treat the prostitutes for their, shall we say, occupational diseases, and the brothers made me prepare the order.
Lots of sachets with just the right doses. A boring job, but I was a little girl, just like you. Besides for the prostitutes, I had to prepare the medicines for the prisoners in the jail near the square. One of the guards came with the prescriptions in the morning and returned to pick up the sachets, usually in the evening. Just these two customers, if I can call them that, took up many hours.

“That was my apprenticeship, and now seeing you working here gives me a lump in the throat. You know, that was when I started wearing scarfs, and I don’t think I ever told you the story about it. Not even your mother ever heard it.

Now I can tell you what happened. It’ll be our secret. One winter afternoon, it was already dark, I was still in the back of the pharmacy making up the last sachets all alone. One of the owners was sick and the other had gone to take something to the local doctor, a good friend of his. Somebody knocked on the glass door. It was the guard.

I opened it and asked him to wait a moment till I finished, but he said I had to go with him right away to the warden’s office. He said he wasn’t feeling well. I told him I wasn’t a doctor, but he wouldn’t take no for an answer. So I closed the door and followed him across the square. We didn’t actually go into the jail, but to the warden’s flat next door. There I found myself looking at an incredible scene.

The remains of a banquet for two, with candles. The warden in pyjamas buttoned hurriedly was standing at the door. He called me with an urgent and desperate voice. On the bed was a woman I recognized immediately, the doctor’s wife. She’d fainted and her face was congested. Her wrists and ankles were tied with scarfs and the warden had untied the one around her neck. Just before she had suffocated, he said.

He asked me to save the lady.
I was scared, but did my best, and when she opened her eyes and seemed she had regained her senses, the warden accompanied me to the door and asked me to keep quiet about it. The owner came back two minutes after me, and the reputation of the doctor’s wife was saved. A few days later, just before Christmas, I got a fancy package from the jail. The warden was thanking me for what I’d done for a prisoner who needed help, and he gave me a scarf decorated with delicate arabesques. Since then, every year I remained in that town he gave me a scarf, and that was the beginning of my collection. Thanks to a cheat, somebody else’s affair.” 

We laugh, just when my mother comes in. Granny hides behind the scarf, gestures for me to keep quiet and in a loud voice asks me to help her stand up. At the door she turns for the last time and winks at me with a complicit air.

(If you want to read the story in Italianclick HERE).

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